March 5, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: I doubt many FACT readers were born when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) evolved as a nonviolent movement for peace and justice on American academic campuses. It was a primary force against the US war on Vietnam before it schismed into its most memorable component, the Weatherman. Weatherman adherents believed that only violence could accomplish the revolution necessary in imperialist America. Their bombings killed whatever was left of the peace movement. Nonetheless, SDS’ Port Huron Statement is one of the greatest revolutionary tracts ever written and deserves careful consideration even today, perhaps especially today. Read it for yourself.]
The Port Huron Statement at 50
The New York Times: March 3, 2012
THEY are mostly in their 70s now, those quixotic college students who drafted the Port Huron Statement at a ramshackle A.F.L.-C.I.O. education retreat northeast of Detroit in 1962. Today, their “agenda for a generation” survives most famously as a punch line from the 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” in which the stoner protagonist proclaims himself an author of “the original Port Huron Statement, not the compromised second draft.” Purists like Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski might dissent, but last month the historian Michael Kazin pronounced the final draft “the most ambitious, the most specific and the most eloquent manifesto in the history of the American left.”
The statement that eventually emerged from a five-day national convention of the Students for a Democratic Society held June 11 to 15, 1962, contained 25,000 words. That was 7,000 more than the Communist Manifesto, which started a global revolution, and 24,300 more words than the Declaration of the Occupancy of New York City passed last September by a general assembly of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which in three weeks produced the magnitude of protests that would take S.D.S. several years to galvanize.
But by invoking the spirit of John Dewey, Albert Camus, C. Wright Mills, Michael Harrington and Pope John XXIII, by at once championing and chiding organized labor as a victim of its own success (the S.D.S. began as the student arm of the League for Industrial Democracy), by elevating the university to the apex of activism and by validating liberalism and the two-party system, Tom Hayden and his colleagues forged a manifesto that still reverberates.
“While most people haven’t read it, it’s still extremely relevant” for its guiding principles, said David Graeber, an anthropologist and anarchist who has been active in the Occupy movement.
“For a long while I thought the Port Huron Statement was a relic of a hopeful past,” Mr. Hayden recalled last week. “But frequently students would read it and say how surprised they were at its sounding like the present.”
Mr. Hayden, who was steeled by a Catholic social conscience, was 22 when he began drafting the manifesto in March 1962 in his Manhattan apartment. He was a budding journalist from the University of Michigan whose job as the principal author of the collaborative manifesto was to synthesize an inchoate angst that had been germinating in several nascent, and largely unpopular, political movements.
Its guiding vision was codified by Arnold Kaufman, a philosophy professor at Michigan. He called it “participatory democracy” and, while S.D.S. would fracture, his concept would in ensuing decades be codified in school decentralization, community planning boards and freedom of information acts. At academic conferences during this anniversary year, including one recently at the University of California, Santa Barbara, scholars and grizzled activists are revisiting the document. Its last sentence was an apocalyptic downer: “If we appear to seek the unattainable, as it has been said, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”
Yet while American campuses were awakening from apathy, they were still several years away from radicalization. The mind-set of the Port Huron drafters — in contrast to the members of the Occupy movement — was that the fundamental values espoused by their liberal elders remained valid and that money had not yet corrupted the political system so completely that it was incapable of being reformed. That is why Mr. Hayden addressed the manifesto to the Young Left as much as to a New Left.
“We would replace power rooted in possession, privilege or circumstance by power and uniqueness rooted in love, reflectiveness, reason and creativity,” the statement said. Those sentiments were echoed in Occupy’s founding principles — “constituting ourselves as autonomous political beings engaged in non-violent civil disobedience and building solidarity based on mutual respect, acceptance, and love.”
“Sure, there were important things we missed,” Mr. Hayden recalled. “The environmental crisis, but Rachel Carson’s book hadn’t come out. Feminism, but Betty Friedan’s book wasn’t out. The escalation of Vietnam, which none of us expected, though we opposed. The assassination of J.F.K. and other killings to follow. The subsequent radicalization and polarization that characterized the late ’60s through Watergate.”
But, he continued, “the core of the Port Huron Statement rings true, and the theme of participatory democracy is relevant today from Cairo to Occupy Wall Street to Wisconsin to student-led democracy movements.”
James Miller, a professor of politics at the New School for Social Research and author of “Democracy Is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago,” suggests that the very concept of consensus at all costs meant that moderates compromised and militants eventually predominated.
Professor Kazin, who teaches history at Georgetown and co-edits Dissent, recalled, too, that “for the anti-war militants who flooded into S.D.S. after 1965, participatory democracy seemed too hazy and abstract both in meaning and application to guide a revolution.”
In 1969, the Port Huron Statement was absent from an anthology, “The New Left Reader.” But a decade later, it was excerpted in Diane Ravitch’s “American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation.”
“Sadly,” she said recently, “I find what is most dated is a sort of naïve belief that human nature itself might be transformed through appeal to idealism, and that somehow our institutions will be malleable in the face of idealism mobilized.”
Paul Berman, who teaches journalism at New York University, said that the statement’s appeal to young people was natural and that neither its tone nor its prescriptions could be blamed for the later atomization of S.D.S.
Could Port Huron double as a manifesto for Occupy?
“This new generation, whether anarchist or simply disillusioned by stolen elections, is far more cynical about politicians and elections,” Mr. Hayden said.
But Occupy has learned the lessons of S.D.S., says Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University professor and author of the forthcoming “Occupy Nation.” “The primacy of nonviolence is a reaction to the ’60s, as is don’t have hierarchal organizations and don’t have visible leaders,” said Professor Gitlin, who was president of S.D.S. from 1963-64. “For the S.D.S, the prime enemy was apathy. This movement recognizes you don’t have to preach to people that they’re alienated.”
In 1962, though, fewer people were. They were still groggy from the conformist Eisenhower decade and dazzled by the Kennedy mystique, which may be why the Port Huron Statement began circumspectly: “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.”
Kalle Lasn was 20 in 1962. Today, he is the editor of Adbusters, whose Twitter tag #OccupyWallStreet branded the movement last summer. He does not feel the Occupy movement needs to look to the Port Huron statement for guidance. “If you ask me what is the most powerful, personal and collective feeling of people in the Occupy movement, it is a feeling of gloom and doom, that they’re looking toward a black hole future,” Mr. Lasn said. “I’m not quite sure we need a manifesto to say that.”
Sam Roberts is the urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times.
March 5, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Amnesty Int’l and Human Rights Watch first came to our attention because they were so pitifully slow in defending political prisoners in Thailand. They both have a good record for supporting human rights. Unfortunately, that great record is in the past—you’re only as good as you are today. Neither organisation is accessible to human rights defenders or the public. I found this out the hard way when I tried to convey my horror for their support of the NATO bombing of Libya. And now we see HRW is supporting similar human rights crimes in Syria. There are a few possibilities here. It would not be inconceivable that AI and HRW have been infiltrated by govt stooges who press a govt agenda and military solutions. Or maybe the head isn’t listening to the tail. Or perhaps they’ve grown so big and everyone has to get salaries so they try to please everyone, including the warmongers. Whatever, they are both straying down the wrong path and defending human rights abuses. Frankly, we think it reprehensible that such supposed do-gooder organisations are so eager to give their dirty PR to govts. If you have money to give to defend human rights, give to a group that’s really making a difference, not just same-old, same-old.]
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen the side of Empire in the Washington-backed belligerency
Black Agenda Report: February 15, 2012
“Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen sides in the Washington-backed belligerency – the side of Empire.” Syria has no choice but to secure every square foot of its territory. “Faced with the certainty of superpower-backed attack under the guise of ‘protecting’ civilians in “liberated” territory, Syria cannot afford to cede even one neighborhood of a single city – not one block! – or of any rural or border enclave, to armed rebels and foreign jihadis.”
The largest imperial offensive since the Iraq invasion of March, 2003, is in full swing, under the banner of “humanitarian” intervention – Barack Obama’s fiendishly clever upgrade of George Bush’s “dumb” wars. Having failed to obtain a Libyan-style United Nations Security Council fig leaf for a “humanitarian” military strike against Syria, the United States shifts effortlessly to a global campaign “outside the U.N. system” to expand its NATO/Persian Gulf royalty/Jihadi coalition. Next stop: Tunisia, where Washington’s allies will assemble on February 24 to sharpen their knives as “Friends of Syria.” The U.S. State Department has mobilized to shape the “Friends” membership and their “mandate” – which is warlord-speak for refining an ad hoc alliance for the piratical assault on Syria’s sovereignty.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are swigging the ale with their fellow buccaneers. These “human rights” warriors, headquartered in the bellies of empires past and present, their chests shiny with medals of propagandistic service to superpower aggression in Libya, contribute “left” legitimacy to the imperial project. London-based Amnesty International held a global “day of action” to rail against Syria for “crimes against humanity” and to accuse Russia and China of using their Security Council vetoes to “betray” the Syrian people – echoing the war hysteria out of Washington, Paris, London and the royal pigsties of Riyadh and Doha. New York-based Human Rights Watch denounced Moscow and Beijing’s actions as “incendiary” – as if it were not the empire and its allies who were setting the Middle East and Africa on fire, arming and financing jihadis – including hundreds of veteran Libyan Salafists now operating in Syria.
Under Obama’s “intelligent” (as opposed to “dumb”) imperial tutelage, colonial genocidaires like France now propose creation of “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria “to allow NGOs to reach the zones where there are scandalous massacres.” NATO flatly rejected such a corridor in Libya when sub-Saharan Africans and black Libyans were being massacred by militias armed and financed by the same “Friends” that now besiege Syria.
Turkey claims it has rejected, for now, the idea of setting up humanitarian “buffer zones” along its border with Syria – inside Syrian territory – while giving arms, training and sanctuary to Syrian military deserters. In reality, it is Syrian Army troop and armor concentrations on the border that have thwarted the establishment of such a “buffer” – a bald euphemism for creating a “liberated zone” that must be “protected” by NATO or some agglomeration of U.S.-backed forces.
NATO, which bombed Libya non-stop for six months, inflicting tens of thousands of casualties while refusing to count a single body, wants desperately to identify some sliver of Syrian soil on which to plant the “humanitarian” flag of intervention. They are transparently searching for a Benghazi, to justify a replay of the Libyan operation – the transparent fact that prompted the Russian and Chinese vetoes.
Faced with the certainty of superpower-backed attack under the guise of “protecting” civilians in “liberated” territory, Syria cannot afford to cede even one neighborhood of a single city – not one block! – or of any rural or border enclave, to armed rebels and foreign jihadis. That road leads directly to loss of sovereignty and possible dissection of Syria – which western pundits are already calling a “hodge-podge” nation that could be a “failed state.” Certainly, the French and British are experts at carving up other people’s territories, having drawn the national boundaries of the region after World War One. It is an understatement to say that Israel would be pleased.
With the Syrian military’s apparent successes in securing most of Homs and other centers of rebellion, the armed opposition has stepped up its terror tactics – a campaign noted with great alarm by the Arab League’s own Observer Mission to Syria, leading Saudi Arabia and Qatar to suppress the Mission’s report. Instead, the Gulf States are pressing the Arab League to openly “provide all kinds of political and material support” to the opposition, meaning arms and, undoubtedly, more Salafist fighters. Aleppo, Syria’s main commercial and industrial city, which had seen virtually no unrest, was struck by two deadly car bombs last week – signature work of the al-Qaida affiliate in neighboring Iraq.
The various “Friends of Syria,” all nestled in the U.S./NATO/Saudi/Qatar cocoon, now openly speak of all-out civil war in Syria – by which they mean stepped up armed conflict financed and directed by themselves – as the preferred alternative to the protracted struggle that the regime appears to be winning. There is one caveat: no “Western boots on the ground in any form,” as phrased by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. It is the Libya formula, and might as well have come straight from Barack Obama’s mouth.
Syria is fighting for its national existence against an umbrella of forces mobilized by the United States and NATO. Of the 6,000 or so people that have died in the past 11 months, about a third have been Syrian soldiers and police – statistical proof positive that this is an armed assault on the state. There is no question of massive foreign involvement, or that the aim of U.S. policy is regime change, as stated repeatedly by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (“Assad must go,” she told reporters in Bulgaria).
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have chosen sides in the Washington-backed belligerency – the side of Empire. As groups most often associated with (what passes for) the Left in their headquarters countries, they are invaluable allies of the current imperial offensive. They have many fellow travelers in (again, what passes for) anti-war circles in the colonizing and neo-colonizing nations. The French “Left” lifted hardly a finger while a million Algerians died in the struggle for independence, and have not proved effective allies of formerly colonized people in the 50 years, since. Among the European imperial powers, only Portugal’s so-called Carnation Revolution of 1974, a coup by young officers, resulted in substantial relief for the subjects of empire: the withdrawal of troops from Portugal’s African colonies.
The U.S. anti-war movement lost its mass character as soon as the threat of a draft was removed, in the early Seventies, while the United States continued to bomb Vietnam (and test new and exotic weapons on its people) until the fall of Saigon, in 1975. All that many U.S. lefties seemed to want was to get the Republicans off their backs, in 2008, and to Hell with the rest of the world. Democrat Barack Obama has cranked the imperial war machine back into high gear, with scarcely a peep from the “Left.”
There was great ambivalence – the most polite word I can muster – among purported leftists in the United States and Europe to NATO’s bombardment and subjugation of Libya. Here we are again, in the face of existential imperial threats to Syria and Iran, as leftists temporize about human rights while the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” blazes new warpaths.
There is no such thing as an anti-war activist who is not an anti-imperialist. And the only job of an anti-imperialist in the belly of the beast is to disarm the beast. Absent that, s/he is useless to humanity.
As we used to say: You are part of the solution – or you are part of the problem. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are part of the problem.
Glen Ford, BAR executive editor, can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com
Glen Ford is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Glen Ford
March 5, 2012
A 16-year-old girl was used as a sex object and filmed. The question of whether she gave her consent to a soldier with a uniform and a gun in a war zone is absurd.
Bangkok Post: March 4, 2012
Residents of Yarang district, Pattani are calling it ”rape”. Fourth Army chief Lt Gen Udomchai Thammasarorat is calling it a ”romantic liaison.” Some Thai-language dailies are calling it ”rape”. Other newspapers are calling it a sexual ”tryst”, as it was labelled in a Bangkok Post headline on Friday.
Comments from those who have watched the clip include:
”That’s not rape.”
”She wasn’t fighting. It’s not rape.”
”She only struggled to hide her face from the camera.”
”It looks like they are just cuddling.”
So was it rape or was it consensual?
There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so that they can’t get away.
The victim is 16 years old. The army private was a draftee, which means he is at least 21 years old.
On the night of Jan 22, a private identified only as Winai either ”made a date” with, or ”lured” a 16-year-old Muslim girl to a secluded corner of the district hospital, situated near the local army outpost.
This was where the ”rape” or ”sexual tryst” occurred, while another private identified as Yot filmed the act.
In the clip, there was no visible physical struggle between Pte Winai and the victim. However, the victim clearly tried to hide her face from the camera. Pte Winai meanwhile smiled and laughed at the camera, with the voice of Pte Yot urging him on.
Later Pte Yot sent the clip to his friends, who then passed it around. The clip finally turned up on the mobile phones and computers of friends of the victim. Upon learning of the clip and the incident, the victim’s parents informed local authorities.
Wadouramae Mamingji, chairman of the Islamic Association of Pattani, said that the locals are angry, that the issue is very sensitive to local culture and that it hurts both the victim and her family.
He suggested the two army privates be punished to the full extent of the law, that the army outpost be moved out of the area and that the victim be compensated.
Lt Gen Udomchai said relationships between soldiers and residents violate Fourth Army regulations and the two privates have been punished. However, he was also concerned that a third party could exploit the issue, which he said could fan mistrust between soldiers and residents.
The two soldiers have been transferred to the Ingkayutthaboriharn army camp in Pattani’s Nong Chik district.
The Fourth Army chief said the public should be open-minded about the issue and that he was told the girl agreed to meet the two army privates herself. But regardless of what Lt Gen Udomchai was told, the question is was it rape or consensual?
This column will not exploit the issue and deepen mistrust between soldiers and residents, in keeping with what the Fourth Army chief cautioned. Rather, it will expose the issue and expand the possibility of justice for a girl, who this column will insist is a victim of a crime regardless of whether she consented to the act.
Section 279 of the Criminal Code states that 15 years old is the age of consent. Be that as it may, Section 283 states that acts classified as ”obscenity for personal gratification” with a person under the age of 18 is a compoundable offence even with the consent of the person.
The punishment is not more than five years imprisonment and/or not more than a 10,000 baht fine. The legislation applies to all persons regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The girl is 16 years old. Having sex with her is an act of ”obscenity for personal gratification”, whether she consented or not. Filming the sexual act constitutes as ”obscenity for personal gratification”, regardless of whether she consented, which her hiding her face from the camera shows she did not.
Therefore, rape or not, the punishment already dealt to the two privates for having violated Fourth Army regulations and the subsequent transfer should not be the end of justice.
A proper court martial on charges of violating two counts of Section 283 of the Criminal Code must be the next chapter in this tragic story _ that is if the victim and her parents are willing to pursue the case. After all, it’s the victim’s right to choose to pursue the case in the interests of justice, or let the matter rest to avoid being put in the public spotlight and emotional trauma.
An important issue in the big picture is what constitutes rape. The differing newspaper headlines and opinions of those who have seen the clip speak to a great need for debate in society.
On a related note, the fact that journalists view the clip to report the news is a moral dilemma in and of itself. The clip is pornography.
But turning a blind eye, a deaf ear and silencing oneself in the name of ”sensitivity” is tantamount to sweeping the crime under the carpet, thereby indirectly helping the culprits go unpunished and legitimising the heinous act. To see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil guarantees that evil will prevail.
Rape is a term that suffers from over-simplification. Traditionally, people think of rape as exclusively in the realm of evil perpetrator(s) hiding in a bush or dark alley, surprising and grabbing an unfortunate woman passing by, which then leads to a brutal physical struggle, with after-the-fact evidence including blood, bruises and a broken body and spirit. This is an ignorant and male-oriented view.
The commonly accepted definition of rape _ in the eyes of the civilised world _ is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of informed consent.
Soldiers wear uniforms and carry guns, they are persons of authority. Two adult soldiers in a war-torn southern province are authority figures whose very presence alone constitutes a threat and coercion.
A 16-year-old girl was used as a sex object and filmed. The question of whether she gave her consent to a soldier with a uniform and a gun in a war zone is absurd.
According to the laws in some countries, this would be a case of statutory rape at the very least.
Tears, screams, punches, bites and scratches are not the only proof of rape. The key word is ”consent”. The perpetrator may be a stranger, friend, coworker, boyfriend, husband or family member. A victim may consent physically, but if the consent is given under duress, coerced through threats of physical harm, blackmail or any other form of intimidation, it is what it is _ rape.
When a person is being forced against his or her will, even if the person doesn’t struggle physically, it is what it is _ rape.
The person may have given physical consent, by yielding, but if there is not mental or emotional consent, it is what it is _ rape.
Rape is not an easy topic to discuss. It’s taboo and carries a social stigma. In Thailand, women’s rights activists struggle to make society understand the different forms of rape and how they affect women and society’s mentality. In many countries, including Thailand, date rape and coerced sex are still considered normal and practised widely by many. It is endemic.
To protect the rights of women, society must understand that while ”no means no”, a ”yes” can be the result of coercion.
In the end all such acts are what they are _ rape, a heinous act that must be condemned.
Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at email@example.com
March 5, 2012
Thousands of Muslim women abandoned following affairs, marriage with troops
The Nation: March 5, 2012
More than 1,000 Muslim women in the southern border provinces have been abandoned following affairs or marriage with Buddhist troops deployed to keep security in the region, a senior official said Monday.
Chaiyong Maneerungsakul, the chairman of committee on justice and human rights related to southern border problems, said the southern violence also caused social problems for local Muslim women.
He said when Buddhist troops were deployed to keep security in the deep South, they liked local Muslim women and had affairs with them and abandoned them. Some of the troops fell in love with the women and married them but when they returned home to other regions, their Muslim wives could not put up with the culture shock and had to return home to their southern border provinces.
As a result, troops deployed to the southern border provinces had caused a lot of social problems in the region, Chaiyong said. He said so far more than 1,000 Muslim women had been abandoned by troops or other government officials.
Chaiyong said the Fourth Army Area commander realised the problems and had commanders educate troops from other regions about the culture of local women so that they would not cause more problems.
Chaiyong said local spiritual leaders should also play a bigger role in educating local women to prevent more problems.
March 5, 2012
No one wants to talk about abortion
Bangkok Post: March 1, 2012
When a model told the media she just had an abortion out of pressure from her actor/singer ex-boyfriend _ a decision she now deeply regrets _ what did you think would ensue?
Public sympathy for her?
An opportunity to discuss abortion problems? The necessity to provide women with unplanned pregnancy with counselling and well-informed choices? Or the need to make men responsible too for the consequences of their unprotected sex?
If that is what you had in mind, then you have totally underestimated Thai society’s systematic violence against women. The police now want to send the woman to jail. Not only that, the police also threaten to punish her ex-boyfriend and his mother who allegedly encouraged the abortion move.
The abortion confession of model Pilawan “Muay” Areerob has made headlines for nearly a week now. Readers are fed with details of how Ms Pilawan was reluctant to the abortion idea, how it was forced upon her by her ex-boyfriend Howard Wang, where she got an abortion and how she was subsequently traumatised. Ms Pilaiwan might just want to rescue her name. The sexual double standards only condemn women, never men, in unplanned pregnancies. But then entered the police to get a piece of media publicity.
Abortion is illegal here unless when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s health or results from rape and incest. Since Ms Pilaiwan’s case does not fit the bill, she must face a maximum three-year imprisonment and/or a maximum fine of 6,000 baht, the police declared.
On Tuesday, the police staged a crackdown on the clinic run by the Population and Community Development Association with an army of media in tow
The police insisted any clinics offering “illegal” abortion must be shut down and the abortion provider must get the penalty of up to five years in jail and/or a fine up to 10,000 baht.
In the news, Ms Pilaiwan, her ex-boyfriend, and the pregnancy termination clinic are painted as the law breakers, the baddies. The hero is the police because they are protecting the law. How ridiculous can things go?
We are talking here about the obsolete law that is killing more than one thousand women every year. They die because the law prevents women from getting safe medical services to end unplanned pregnancy. They are then forced to turn to quacks or dangerous abortion-inducing drugs, which often results in incomplete abortion and deadly complications. Every attempt to amend this draconian abortion law has been aborted because society believes maintaining the surface of morality is worth more than saving women’s lives.
The standard thinking is that abortion is sinful. Allowing it will hurt our self image as a virtuous, religious society while inviting more moral decadence. If you are pregnant out of wedlock, then you are bad and deserve social ostracism. If you die from abortion complications, then so be it. If these values and practices are not violence against women, what is? Ms Pilaiwan is actually the lucky one. Her early pregnancy ended safely. According to the Public Health Ministry, 300,000 women seek hospital care each year from abortion complications. Thailand’s death rate from abortion is 300:100,000. It is among the highest in the world. Yet no one cares.
That’s not all. These 300,000 women who seek medical help are routinely subjected to a medically primitive treatment “to give them a lesson.”
It does not matter if the complications come from miscarriage or incomplete abortion. The patients’ wombs are scraped and scooped, often without anaesthetics.
Why sticking to this harsh treatment when the rest of the medical world is already using a safer and less painful method with quick suction of the womb or pills to remove the uterine contents from miscarriage and incomplete abortion?
If this is not violence against women, what is?
We refuse to help women with unplanned pregnancy. We make them suffer. We let them die. No, I cannot consider the society that is treating women this way virtuous. Can you?
Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor, Bangkok Post.
Prachatai: February 29, 2012
On 28 Feb, Surachai Danwatthananusorn, leader of the Red Siam group, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for lèse majesté on three counts, but the jail term was commuted by half due to his guilty plea.
Surachai, 69, was prosecuted for three separate public speeches he made in 2010 at the red-shirt headquarters at Imperial Lad Phrao in Bangkok, and at rallies in Doi Saket District in Chiang Mai and at Udon Thani, had asked the court to combine all cases and pleaded guilty.
According to the court verdict, the defendant, even though 68 years old when committing the crimes, had had a political role for a long time, had a bachelor’s degree from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, was a former member of the Nakhon Sri Thammarat Provincial Administrative Organization, and was considered a mature person.
Given that when the offences were made society was inflicted with serious ideological conflicts, what the defendant said exacerbated the conflicts, and defamed the monarchy, the court said.
The court gave him a five-year jail term in each case, and reduced them by half as he had confessed.
As he had been convicted and imprisoned before, but was incorrigible, it was not appropriate to suspend sentence, the court said.
Judges reading the verdict were led by Chanathip Muanpawong who late last year convicted Amphon Tangnopphakul to 20 years in prison and Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul to 15 years in her second adjuducation. [FACT: This is also the trial judge in the case of the Thailand 10. We think he oversteps his bounds. The public deserves to be protected from a judge who abuses the laws for his own opinions.]
‘I have 40 years of political experience. Given the situation in the country, how could I not speak? And I avoided it as much as I could. These many cases resulted from speeches that I avoided as much as I could. What could I do?” Surachai said, adding that the sentence today was considered merciful by the court.
Karom Polpornklang, Surachai’s lawyer, said that if the public prosecutor did not appeal, these three cases would be finished. However, a case is still being investigated by Wang Thong Lang police and if prosecuted, Surachai would plead guilty. Surachai has decided to fight another case handled by Chana Songkhram police as he believes that his speech was misinterpreted and exaggerated, and court hearings are scheduled for 5-8, and 12-15 June 2012.
Surachai was arrested on 22 Feb 2011 and has been detained without bail at Bangkok Remand Prison ever since.
According to his wife Pranee, he has health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, blockage of blood vessels in the heart and inflammation of the prostate, so he wants to confess in order to seek a royal pardon.
March 5, 2012
Political Prisoners in Thailand: March 1, 2012
Prachatai has a disturbing story regarding the twin brothers who attacked Nitirat academic Worachet Pakeerut.
Suphot and Suphat Silarat, 30, turned themselves in to police, admitting that they had assaulted Worachet. According to the report, “[t]hey were charged with collaborating to commit a premeditated attack, causing physical and mental injuries.” The police released them!
The police say that “[s]ince they turned themselves in to police, they were temporarily released. The police had to wait for medical reports on Worachet’s injuries before bringing the two suspects to court.”
Apparently they were released without bail being required even though they may be subject to “imprisonment of up to three years and/or a fine of up to 6,000 baht” and “Suphat has been charged with committing physical attacks at several police precincts in northern Bangkok and Pathum Thani.” In addition, Suphot has a Facebook account and his photo section shows “pictures of guns and gun testing.” This includes a picture of one of the twins with a sniper’s rifle.
After reporting to the police, the suspects told reporters “that they disagreed with Nitirat which is running a campaign on Article 112.” They also threatened reporters. The police stated that “the father of the suspects said that Worachet deserved it and his sons were radicals.”
PPT draws attention to two issues. The first is that the pictures show the twins with arms, including a sniper’s rifle and ammunition. This reminds us of the attacks on red shirts in April and May 2010. The second is the double standards of releasing violent men with no bail. Think of Sondhi Limthongkul getting bail and of People’s Alliance for Democracy activists getting bail on very serious charges. Then consider all the red shirts denied bail. Think of old men charged with lese majeste repeatedly refused bail as “flight risks.” And think of all the lese majeste victims repeatedly asking for bail and being refused on remarkably flimsy grounds.
The double standards involved are breathtaking.